THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: Trump is more than just rants this time

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Contributing Columnist

Former President Donald Trump may have downplayed his fraudulent claim that he was cheated out of the White House in 2020, but he never downplayed his intention to run again in 2024. 

In formally announcing the launch of his campaign in November 2022, he made it clear that in his estimation he was the only one who could beat President Joe Biden.

He maintained that he could beat him for the same reason he defied all odds and won in 2016. He posed as the classic political outlier, a non-Beltway professional, in sharp contrast to some hackneyed politician. He was unconventional, unorthodox, in fact, the anti-politician. That’s why tens of millions bought into his con job. 

He struck the hard but familiar populist tone as the “people’s candidate” when he told the assembled acolytes at Mar-a-Lago in his presidential bid announcement, that the Republican Party had no chance to win back the White House without him. 

“This will not be my campaign, this will be our campaign all together,” he said at the time.

But just exactly what kind of 2024 campaign will Trump run this time? How will it differ from his 2016 shocking presidential triumph and his 2020 not-so-shocking presidential defeat? 

And will the threat of conviction and imprisonment hang over his head with any of the multiple criminal cases pending against him? One thing is certain, with these improbables and intangibles that dangle in the air he will have to do things differently in 2024 to get back to the White House.

Trump has tipped his hand on one part of his strategy. That is to stop obsessing publicly that he won the 2020 election but was robbed by a cheating, conniving, and rigged election system, by the Democrats. This tact won’t completely disappear from his rants to his fervent loyalists on the campaign trail, but he won’t make it his prime focus. 

There are two new possible campaign wrinkles. The first is to perpetually remind all that the country prospered for a time with near record low joblessness, robust business activity and no wars. And that he cracked down on illegal immigration. He’ll claim that the Democrats, if they retain the White House, will reverse all of those alleged gains made during his White House tenure.

The second tweak will be a direct and big spruced-up Make America Great Again theme. He will knock off the race-baiting rhetoric about Mexican murderers and rapists flooding and imperiling the country that was a staple of his 2016 campaign. That will be a vital pivot with the real possibility that he can bump up the not inconsiderable percent of Hispanic voters that backed him in 2020 despite his immigrant baiting in 2016. That is especially crucial to his election success in Texas.

Trump also will try to make the election a referendum on Biden’s governance. That will be tricky. 

Biden consistently receives high approval ratings on the likeability factor. That is always a plus for an incumbent. However, his Achilles heel is the consistently low job performance approval ratings he gets from a majority of voters. He got the dwindling numbers despite record-low joblessness and no serious economic crises on his watch.

That is normally the surefire passport back to the White House for an incumbent president. Yet the distrust and wariness factor compounded by the never-ending talk of Biden’s age are factors that can hurt. Trump will have three more ace cards crucial to beatimg an incumbent president. One is a united party, even though many Republicans will hold their nose while voitng for Trump.

The GOP will plow in a king’s ransom in campaign cash, mount an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign, and will continue to ramp up its voter suppression ploys, particularly in the must-win five or six swing states that decide the White House.

The second ace will be the millions of his rabid die-hard loyalists. They will dash to the polls again for him no matter what happens to him in his legal battles and the avalanche of personal attacks on his congenital lying, dishonesty and sordid character.

The biggest ace card Trump has ironically is the very thing that normally would sink any would-be criminally indicted political candidate faster than the Hindenburg. That is the prospect of conviction on multiple felony charges. Trump will turn the tables on this. 

He will have endless variations on the campaign trail of the storyline of conspiracy, corruption, victimization, martyrdom and a naked attempt to silence the only man who can upset the Democratic apple cart.

That will serve two purposes. One, it will further stiffen the GOP to back him because of his popularity, and pander even more to his base which many Republican candidates and incumbents depend on to win or hold onto their office. The utter failure of anti-Trump Republicans including the other declared GOP presidential candidates to find any way to derail his campaign while boosting their chances was stark proof of the mesmerizing grip Trump had credibly and effectively on the party even after his multiple indictments.

Trump has a tight knit, professional team running his 2024 campaign. Tjat makes it and him even more formidable, and sadly more frightening this go round.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He also is the host of the weekly Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show at 9 a.m. Saturday on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.